The battle of Manassas.
Graphic account of a capture,
Richmond Aug. 10, 1861
To the Editors of the Dispatch:
--Owing to severe ness, from which I have not yet recovered my promised statement has been delayed to this time.
It is with diffidence I it upon the public even now, and should carefully not do so, but that I know that everything in anyway connected with the great victory of Manassas
is still read with unabated interest, and that it is also necessary to my own vindication, from certain mis-statements which have been copied into our newspapers from Northern sources.
I shall make it as brief as possible, confiding it mainly to facts, and denouncing, in advance, as false and unfounded, anything in conflict with it which may have appeared in the journal, of the United States
The day before the fight, (Saturday,) the regiment to which I was attached (the Nineteenth Mississippi, Col. C. M. Mott
,) was on the way from Winchester
, waiting at a railway station called Piedmont
, for a train to convey it to the vicinity of the scene of action.
I was on horseback, and was that day acting as Assistant Brigade Quartermaster to Maj. James H. Anderson
, of Mississippi
, and also as volunteer Aid to Col. C. H. Mott
, who was then acting at commander of the Brigade in place of Brig. Gen. E. Kirby Smith
, who was acting in place of General Johnston
. Saturday morning I had ridden on, six or seven miles from Piedmont
, by the dirt road, in the direction of Manassas
, when Maj. Anderson
requested me to go back and attend to some business in his department which he supposed had been neglected.
In order to ride as light as possible, I gave my rifle and baggage to a servant and told him to await my return — not expecting to be gone more than two hours. On my return to Piedmont
I was detained by Col. Mott
four or five hours, and, consequently, when I started back toward Manassas
I was unable to overtake either the Quartermaster
's train or the servant with my arms, who, of course, despairing of my return in time for him to catch up with the train before dark, had gone on.--I rode on, however, to Haymarket, a village distant, I believe, ten miles from Manassas Junction
, and somewhat nearer the battlefield.
I stopped for the night, being completely knocked up by the fatigues of the day and of the previous march from Winchester
to Piedmont Sleeping late next morning — the glorious Sunday
, the 21st--late at least for a soldier, we were at breakfast about 7 o'clock, when it was announced that the battle had begun, as the quick recurring discharges of cannon were distinctly heard.
It was at once proposed that a party of us, all of whom were strangers to me, should proceed to the battle-ground.
I was unarmed, but such was my desire to see a battle, particularly such as I knew this promised to be, I acceded, and away we went, under the guidance of some of the neighboring citizens, who said they knew all the by-ways of the country.
They led us by a tortuous route, and it was not till half past 10 that we reached the field; and when we got there I was completely ‘"turned round,"’ and, as I found out after wards, was on the left wing of our line of battle, instead of the right, as I then supposed
The part of the battle ground upon which we entered had not been very hotly contested previous us to our arrival; but, instantly after coming up, it became and continued for hours the ‘ "r dd "’ part of the field.
The persons who came with me I saw no more after reaching the some of the conflict Unable to find any of our Mississippi
people that I knew, I was thrown with a regiment which I was afterwards told was from North Carolina
--probably the 6th--which just then was making and ineffectual attempt to form on a ridge to pointblank range of a large battery of the enemy, then playing on that part of our lines.
The regiment, however, fell back a little way to the left and formed in good order behind a farmhouse and the adjacent out buildings.
About tois time a piece of our artillery came upon the scene at that point, and after some delay opened fire upon the enemy in beautiful style.
I sat on my horse near this gun for some time, the enemy's shot and shell whizzing by and falling thick and fast around.
The shot from a rifled cannon makes a peculiar muscle, which, to be appreciated, must be heard — it cannot be described.
The bursting of bombs in the air, too, is a sight to see — the long drawn-out whirr of a Minnie ball — of a hailstorm of them — the small cannon like report of many thousand muskets — all made up a concert well worth going a thousand miles to attend.
And yet, strange to say, I was not in the least apprehensive of danger to myself.
All sense of fear was swallowed up in the one grand idea that we had that day before us an enemy who, whatever his numbers, must be that day whipped.
After tarrying awhile by the side of our troops at the point where I first smell the powder and heard the roar of a real battlefield, I descried on the hill in front of us — the hill where, further to the left, stood the house so terribly riddled afterwards by the cannon shot of the enemy, in which they killed the old woman, notwithstanding he hospital flag then floating over it — another regiment, which I hoped might be one from Mississippi
I immediately formed the determination to join it I started down the hill under a cross fire from a battery to the left, and another in front, which I now suppose to have been S erman's, such was the incessant roar of its guns and the explosion of its shalls and hissing of its lls all around and above me. I had, however, advanced only half way up the opposite hill when I was met by the regiment, I was seeking, rapidly falling back, but in good order.
Many of the men were wounded, and many came down the hill with their faces all streaming with blood and begrimed with powder.
This regiment, I am informed, was the Fourth Alabama, which suffered so severely and acted so nobly throughout the entire day. It proceeded to form, if I am not mistaken, along with the North Carolina regiment, behind the crest of the hill and beyond the range of the enemy's guns.
All this time the rattle of rifles and musketry, as well as the grander music of artillery, was unceasing.
It was observed by many old soldiers, after the battle, that they had never before known the discharges of rifles and musketry to be so sharp and continuous throughout so long an action — an action that lasted from 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening. And this, too, notwithstanding, the now well established fact that there were six distinct bayonet charges made by the Confederates
during the day.
It was now about 1 o'clock, and as the troops I happened to be with seemed to be with seemed to be waiting for reinforcements, and as I was unarmed and there was no prospect of getting arms where I then was, I concluded to go again in search of a Mississippi regiment, knowing the gallant Second, under the command of my ow renowned friend Faulgner, to be somewhere in the field.
For this purpose I started off, as I then thought, on the side of the field next Manassas
Unfortunately, I was mistaken in the course, and knowing nothing of our line or order of battle de in the direction of Centreville
.--On rising the next hill, a shell struck a rock within a few feet of me, and exploding, threw the dust over me and the horse in a way that was not very compatible with one's notions of safety, but was still exciting, especially to the horse, who bounded into the air as if he had been struck with a fragment of Yankee iron.
This shell must have been thrown at me by Sherman
's Battery, then probably a mile and a half distant.
Riding forward a few yards further, I perceived in a little glen or having a party of soldiers, numbering, I suppose, about forty, dressed in a uniform exactly similar to many of those worn in the Confederate
service, and all armed with the improved Springfield
Of course, I did not dream for an instant that they were other than Southerners and Secessionists.
Riding directly up to, and accosting them, a brief colloquy ensued, of which the following is the substance:
‘"Well, boys,"’ said I, ‘"I believe those batteries over yonder are, for the present, a little too much for our people on the hill."’
‘"Oh, no,"’ replied one of them, ‘"we are carrying the day everywhere. "’ (And so they were up to 1½ P. M.)
‘"Well,"’ said I, ‘"who are you, and where are you from?"’
"Where the devil are you from quick response, in true Yankee fashion.
Seeing I was in for it, I replied, and proudly, "I am from Mississippi
Instantly, an officer sprang up and ‘"Take that man!"’ and the whole their guns and surrounded me. There was, in their midst, totally unarmed.
What could I do but surrender men prisoner of war I did so. I was dismounted.
They searched me for arms, but found none.
The officer of the detachment got on my horse, and when the panic came, ran away with him!
But I understand that both horse and man were killed by a cannon shot from one of our batteries in the rout.
So much for the gallant bay who bore me through what little I saw of the immortal field of Manassas
My captors carried me by devious ways to a detachment of their troops, probably 1,500 strong, posted in a neighboring wood.
From thence they were ordered to convey me to the rear, which they proceeded to do, treating me kindly and politely by the way. Indeed, I may here say, once for all, to the credit of the great Yankee nation, that, except in a single it stance, I experienced nothing but polite and respectful treatment while I was a captive in their hands.
The single instance referred to was that of a very common sol-
dier, who it seems, had just lost his brother in the fight, and who came up and, pointing to me, said he wanted to shoot ‘"that d — d .
"’ My guards sternly ordered him off, and even threatened to shoot him if he did not at once absent himself.
But this is anticipating for the incident happened after we reached the rear.
The rear of the enemy's forces to which I was next conducted was then at a point a mile and a half or two miles this side of Centreville
, at a farm-house beyond and to the right of which lot extensive field.
To the left there is a shirt of woods, sufficiently extensive to screen a brigade and a battery of four guns.
But of this farther on.
Arrived at the rear, we found there a large body of men, judge, to near 10,000, scattered over the field and in the grounds around the farm-house, all in dis rr y and all elate with the victory which they then deemed assured.
They brought out a chair for me, and a large crowd gathered around, asking innumerable question, but at the same time politely assuring me I need not answer unless I choose.
They asked me how many men we had in the field that day?
I told them I did not know, and that if I aid I should not tell them.
However, I added, I shouldn't be surprised if we had at least 69,000 men on the ground and as many more only a few miles off. They said they had 40,000 in the field and 40 0 0 n reserve.
They asked me if Jeff Davis
didn't ride a white horse, and was be not on the field I replied that President Davis
rode a white horse at Richmond
, and that if not then on the field, he would be there in ample time to turn the ti of battle, if it was really running in their favor, as they said it was. They said they did not care a d — n for the nigger — that they were simply fighting for the flag, and asked me what we were fighting for?
I told them they were very neid; that while we were fighting for the same great principle our and their forefathers fought tone her for side by side through the first Revolution, the right to govern ourselves in our own way, without let or hindrance from the outside world, they acknowledged that they were merely fighting for a tawdry piece of hunting, worth about fifty cents a yard — while they were fighting for a simple conventional symbol, we were fighting for our homes and fl sid, and every good and holy thing that man holds dear Much more of he same sort passed, but not a word was said by me (as their reporters wantonly write,) about our having ‘ "two full negro regiments"’ in our Confederate States
During this colloquy a great crowd, numbering several hundreds, gathered around me, still sitting in my chair,) several officers on horseback being on the outskirts and propounding the interrogatories.
Tiring somewhat of their ceaseless questions, I politely remarked that if they would stop their cross questioning I would make them a compendious statement of the whole issue between the Confederate States
and the United States
, as I understood it, and as I believed every honest and intelligent man among them would view it if be were only properly enlightened.
To this they assented, and I proceeded to do my best under the circumstances.
Of course, I cannot here give even an outline of my remarks on that interesting and critical occasion; but this much I remember, and will not withhold: After going over the main points of Southern Scripture in reference to merely political issues, State Rights, &c., I told them frankly that, all he g they could outnumber us, we could outfight at them; that a vast majority of our people were as brave as at the head of his conquering legions, while the majority of brave men among them was probably not quite so vast; that we had the best Generals
on our side — Davis
, Albert Johnson
, Ben McCulloch
, and others — while they had only Scott
, whose sands of life are nearly run, and who is altogether too slow for such a ‘"trial of conclusions"’ as our Generals
have instituted; and that as long as we could bring 2 ,000 men into the field, (and we can do that forever,) the question of victory or defeat is a mere question of general h p. Finally, I told them that God Almighty, the Supreme
, All-wise, and ever just Ruler of the Universe, was on our side.
That this was e by the military necessities of the old Union, which, for the last eight years, had required large quantities of arms and munitions of war to be transported to Southern and Southwestern forts, arsenals, armories and other military and naval depots — That it was evidenced at Fort Sumter
when God raised a great storm and s at ored their provisioning and reenforcing fleet to the four winds of the sea, just as the bombardment began.
That it was evidenced at Bethel
, where it seems that the very stars, in their courses, fought against you iseras of the North
, in that you got to fighting and staying among yourselves, even before the battle began, demoralizing your force, and thus assuring us an easy victory against the most desperate odds.
That it was further abundantly evidenced in the unexampled food crops with which the good God had blessed us thus forever thwarting your expressed determination to starve us out, by blockading us from Cairo
all the way round to the sea.--And, finally, I should not be surprised if some signal interposition of Davine Providence should not be exhibited in our favor here at Bull
All this, and more like it, I substantially said, and yet they did not slay me where I sat. The truth is, I thought I was d ned to a long and dreary imprisonment or exile at least, nd, perhaps, felt a little desperate.
They heard me politely, and so far from mocking or hissing, seemed rather to like, if not the matter, at least the exceeding novelty of my remarks, and the intense strangeness of ‘"the situation" ’ generally.
Nearly all the time I was with them the Yankees
were particularly severe on our ‘ "sneeringly asking,"’ How many masked batteries have you?" I told them we had them almost everywhere, and particularly in places where they would least expect to find them.
I knew not that even while I spoke one of our batteries was moving up behind the skirt of woods to which I have alluded, for the purpose of giving them a surprise such as the world has rarely seen.
I observed that most of them seemed to be unaccustomed to the use of arms, handling them awkwardly, and showing very palpable symptoms of trepidation
whenever even one of their own muskets or rifles was fired a short distance off. But when, as I have foreshadowed, our big guns, (Kemper
's battery,) backed by the South Carolina brigade, came up on them unperceived and commenced firing on them from their right flank, all scattered about the houses and fields as they were — oh, then you ought to have seen them break and run!
The two rough-hewn fellows who had me in charge snatched me up by either arm and dragged me in the grand melee at more than ‘"double quick,"’ across an open field, for more than two hundred yards; and, when the fire grew hotter, and some of their men began to fall, they forgot all about me, dropped me and their muskets, and everything else they had about them that would emcumber their flight — knapsacks, haversacks, cartridge boxes, canteens, and all — and ran for dear life.
As did my guards in the matter of shedding their encumbrances, so did nearly the entire division.
The woods and fields were strewed with the ‘"spoils of war."’ All this time the officers — or at least some of them — were shouting, ‘"Don't run, men; don't run!"’ while they themselves were making quite as good time as their men. Very quietly I picked up one of my guards' muskets (I have it yet.) and taking a direction to the light across their line of racing,
I was soon safely cut of the rabble rout, and happily enco ed under a tree in a woodland hard by, where I sat down to await the chances of battle, already decided — though I did not then know it positively — gloriously in our favor.
It was, I think, not more than an hour before the skirmishers of a South Carolina Regiment came up, and, after requiring me to give an account of myself, which being satisfactory.
I went on with them a short distance, and a little after sunset saw the last gun fired by Kemper
's battery at the broken and disordered columns of the enemy as they pell-mell into and through Centreville
, on their way to Washington
, and to everlasting disgrace.
It was by one of these last guns, I suppose, that my gallant horse and the officer who commanded the detachment which took me prisoner were slain-- to pace!
that night towards headquarter South Carolina Brigade, in whose company I found myself b vou as various places on the battle- field, and finally, about 8 o'clock in the morning Monday, we arrived at the headquarters of Gen. Evans
, where we laid down on the ground, and on Yankee blankets,
in the rain, and slept till we got sufficiently wet to wake us up — about 6½ or 7 o'clock.
My captors belonged to a regiment of Wisconsin
--the 6th, I believe.
After they ran off and left me, dropping every portable thing they had, I picked up the fine military great cost of one of their officers--Lieut. Wise
, I suppose, was his name, from an envelope in the pocket — which I have yet, and which (my baggage being at the Junction
,) was of essential service in shielding me from the cold and rain of several succeeding night and days.
Begging pardon, Messrs Editors
, for having trespassed so long on your patience,
I am, yours, very respectfully,
J. P. Paron